There are plenty of people who are going to look back on the 2020 season and see the NFC East as an abhorrant garbage pile of mediocrity. An affront to the sanctity of NFL parity, which presents itself as a perfect, almost infallible system which allows the best teams in to the playoffs, and the others to retool and try again. Ask me a decade ago and I’d agree with the grand, presentational beauty of football as the be all, end all bastion of competitive hustle. Now, I confess that 2020 has broken me. I cannot help but love, with all my heart, just how ridiculous the NFC East is.
Gaze upon its beauty and majesty.
We laughed when the teams had losing records weeks ago, but nobody expected this scenario to remain manifest with a month remaining in the season. Four, utterly hopeless teams, one of which will make the playoffs — not by merit, but default. Nobody in the NFC East will deserve a playoff shot. Instead they’ll be handed it by circumstance, and it’s really not worth getting worked up over.
Every few years a season like this happens in a division. Football writers wax poetically about whether the playoff system is fair. Fans of an excellent, deserving team will watch as their beloved 10-6 squad misses out — while someone from the NFC East will head to the post season with a 5-11 record. They’ll scream about how it’s all “bullshit” and “unfair,” and it is. It really, really is. I feel for those fans of (probably) an NFC West team, but once that anger subsides you’ll appreciate how hilarious this all is.
There’s only one appropriate way to cap off 2020: Whoever makes the playoffs from the NFC East needs to go on an impossible Cinderella run and win the Super Bowl. The most asterisk worthy team deserves to win the asterisk season and send us into a (God help us please), better 2021. Then this can all be a fever dream.
For now, you’re all winners … for making me smile.
Loser: The hapless Detroit Lions.
Let’s break this one down in stages.
- The Lions lost. Bad.
- To the Carolina Panthers. Worse.
- Who didn’t have Christian McCaffery. Even worse.
- And were starting a quarterback whose prior experience in pro football was playing in the XFL, and threw two red zone picks. YIKES.
I know it’s not entirely as simple as this. The Panthers defense is better than most people expected, and P.J. Walker, to his credit was better than he had any right to be. Still, this was an absolute mess.
Keep in mind the Lions were a team who still believed they had a shot in the NFC North. They believed it so much they traded for Everson Griffen at the deadline, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. They thought they could actually find a back door in. There is almost no way that happens now. This season has fallen apart for Detroit, and it’s difficult to see where the team goes from here.
Winner: Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen, new BFFs.
There isn’t really some glowing award anyone should win for beating the Jets. It’s kind of like beating a three-year-old at miniature golf. Sure, you’re happy you got the W, but you also feel kinda bad for making them realize they suck.
That said, Herbert and Allen are quickly becoming one of the best duos in the NFL. On Sunday this was on full display, with the rookie quarterback throwing for 366 yards and three touchdowns, while Allen caught as astonishing 16 passes, en route to a 145 yard day.
This duo should be able to hang together for another solid 4-5 years before decline sets in, and the way they’re meshing already should bring a smile to the face of Chargers fans.
Winner: The New York Jets, kings of tanking.
Every journey requires a first step, and you did it guys. Getting eliminated from playoff contention began the sojourn in ensuring you’re on the path to Trevor Lawrence. But, the hard work doesn’t end here. Now you need to lose again, and keep losing — no matter what. That is your lot in life, so you can select, and ruin yet another promising quarterback.
New England already faced an uphill battle to make the playoffs in 2020, but losing on Sunday to the Texans more or less sealed their fate. It would take a small miracle, and a heck of a collapse by the Bills to change the course of the division at this point, and that’s not going to happen.
We now look ahead to one of the most fascinating offseasons in recent memory for a team. How long does Belichick keep going? Do the Patriots think Cam Newton showed enough to try this again? How do you revamp a roster, with holes everywhere, without the promise of dominating wins or the once-vaunted “Patriot way?” I’m anxiously awaiting it, because I have no real stakes in it and can enjoy it more without the stress of this being my team to worry about.
Winner: The AFC South elite.
The concept of divisional statements is a bit of a beleaguered one. After all, every team plays for themselves in isolation, giving this idea of “divisional pride” not much meaning. Except for our beautiful, sweet summer children the NFC East where everything is bad.
That said, the Colts beating the Packers in overtime, and the Colts beating the Ravens — also in overtime, makes a heck of a statement for the health of the division. Both teams deserve a playoff spot based on their recent play, and it’s going to be a brutal stretch for the spate of teams locked in second in AFC divisions trying to find a way into the playoffs.
Loser: Matt Leinart.
LA just closed all dining INDOOR/OUTDOOR for 3 weeks? Can’t wait to move out of this awful place. Ridiculous.
— Matt Leinart (@MattLeinartQB) November 23, 2020